By Tony Hunter, food futurist
You can’t evaluate what doesn’t exist. That’s my view on studies saying that their evaluations of cultivated meat technologies ‘prove’ that it can’t be commercially viable.
These studies demonstrate a typical linear versus exponential mindset as by the time you complete the analysis it’s essentially useless as the technology has moved on so significantly. We also need to remember that you can’t prove that something doesn’t exist, only that you can’t find it! Similarly, you can’t prove that something can’t happen, only that it hasn’t happened yet. Yes, you can give probabilities, but again only based on known technology assumptions, not the unknown ones.
There’s no guarantee that cultivated meat will be commercially viable, but the continuing introduction of new technologies bring this closer to reality. As an example, this recent development from ProFuse Technology illustrates the point. They’ve developed media supplements that they claim can reduce the duration of the muscle growth phase by 80% to only 48 hours. They also claim these supplements can deliver up to 40% reduction in production costs, a significant improvement.
As another example, Ever After Foods is developing a new generation of bioreactors specifically designed for growing cultivated meat rather than for pharma requirements. They say that their bioreactors offer a 700 % increase in productivity compared to other cultivated meat bioreactors, irrespective of size. There are numerous other examples of new technologies driving costs down and the question is whether you can ‘stack’ them? For example, can the 40 % reduction in production cost be added to the 700 % increase in productivity? As the industry supply chain continues to break out into discrete links new companies may be able to add together technologies from various other companies to optimise costs and quality.
One thing is for certain; the breakthroughs in cultivated meat technologies will continue to pile up. No one can predict the exact future and I wonder what five or 10 years progress will bring? It’s certainly going to be interesting to watch how the sector develops.
Tony Hunter is a global futurist, food scientist, speaker, and foresight strategy consultant. He consults and speaks globally, using his distinctive combination of scientific qualifications, business experience, and detailed understanding of exponential food technologies to deliver a unique perspective on the future of food.